Rochester Civic Theater Receives Pushback over Miller Firing
Rochester, MN (KROC AM News) - There has been a public backlash to this week’s firing of Greg Miller, the longtime Artistic Director of Rochester Civic Theater.
He had held the position for nearly 30 years.The organization’s board of directors recently decided to eliminate his position and replace it on a contractual rather than staff basis. He was notified Monday
The decision hasn’t gone over well with a large number of volunteers, donors and others. They have gone public with their feelings, expressed in this “Letter of Dissent.”
The following is from spokesman Tommy Rinkowski:
“The Rochester Civic Theatre is a volunteer-based, community nonprofit organization that educates and enriches the adults and young people of Rochester and Southeastern Minnesota through the production and presentation of live theatre.”
On Monday, June 5th, the Rochester Civic Theatre board of directors eliminated the Artistic Director position and dismissed Greg Miller who has served with distinction for 27 years. According to the board's press release, they have decided to seek contract staff to direct in-house productions instead. For many of us, Greg was the glue that kept our community together; the significance of his loss cannot be overstated.
This is not the only change this board has recently made. Until just a few weeks ago, the Civic was an organization with voting membership. This means that members had the right to vote upon issues which directly impacted their representation, including board membership at the annual member meeting. However, at a recent meeting, the board of directors broke with over 60 years of tradition and voted to strip the members of voting rights. This, after a group of concerned members, including the authors of this letter, requested more transparency, accountability and an opportunity for our voices to be heard; instead, the board reduced transparency and removed membership entirely.
The members the board voted to silence, whom we represent, volunteer thousands of hours of our time to work as ushers, teachers, house managers, scenic carpenters, stage crew, property managers, technical crew, and actors – all the elements to create a quality artistic product. We purchase season ticket packages to watch Rochester’s talented artists perform, and provide invaluable word of mouth support to encourage others to do so. However, we cannot continue to do so if we have no confidence that the leadership of the Civic understands the organization, or shares our interpretation of its mission.
As a community, we have lost our confidence in the vision offered by the current board of directors, who seem intent on turning this theatre into the Rochester Civic Rental Space. Their decisions demonstrate they have no regard for the 60 year legacy of our organization, which was founded by a dedicated group of non-professional actors who bonded together in 1951 to put on a show. The Civic grew from that simple vision to create a place which provides unmatched opportunities of creative outlets for artists to do their work.
The above mission statement guides us, the primary stakeholders of the Rochester Civic Theatre, to bring our talents, funds, knowledge and expertise to the Civic to create entertaining and educational productions which rival in quality any other theatre in this region and state. We wish to continue to adhere to this model, encouraging diversity and community involvement through volunteer support. Unfortunately, recent events have caused us to question whether or not we can effectively do so through our support of the Civic.
We volunteers, donors, artists, and professionals no longer feel welcome at the Civic. Our voices have been silenced - but today we speak out.